Remain focused amongst household distractions

The COVID-19 lockdown has become a reality in the United Kingdom, and the adjustments we all have to make as a result of this unforeseen change are colossal. For many workers, it means shifting from daily office visits to working from home.

If it's the first time you've found yourself in this situation, it's natural to struggle a bit. With distractions aplenty ‒ not to mention a desire to check for updated news stories every 30 minutes ‒ there's likely to be one question on your mind: How can I stay productive? Here are some easy tips to help you along the way.

Create a separate workspace

First things first, let's talk about your workspace. Whilst it may be tempting to sit on the sofa with your laptop, with Netflix playing in the background, that setup is unlikely to lead to productivity. What's more, this mistake blurs the lines between work time and free time. Don't do it. Creating a separate workspace in your home will help you to make a distinction between the times you're "in the office" and the times you're not.

If you're lucky enough to have a home study, you're all set. Use that room as your office and only work when you're in it. However, if you live in a smaller space, you may have to get creative. The kitchen table can make a good workspace if you move a few things around. Making your work area as comfortable as possible will help you too. You could even put up a few inspirational posters!

Invest in some houseplants

Whilst we're on the topic of sprucing up your workspace, here's a quick hack that you should try. Including some houseplants in your designated "office" area could help you to boost your productivity when working from home.

Research from the University of Exeter suggests that having some greenery around you as you work will make you happier and more productive. It's a win-win situation. If you already have plants at home, move them to the area in which you plan to work. If not, you consider investing in some pronto.

Stick to a morning ritual

Before now, you would get up, wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, and hit your commute. Since you no longer have to head to an office, you might think that you can scrap all of the above. However, having a morning routine helps you to get in the right mindset for work. The couple of hours between your alarm going off and actually sitting down to work give you the chance to mentally prepare for the tasks at hand.

With that in mind, why not create a new morning ritual? Getting up earlier than you have to start work is a must. Give yourself at least an hour to get ready for the working day. You can use this time to wash, eat, and get comfortable. If you're feeling extra energetic one morning, you can even slide in a quick home workout before you log on to your computer.

Set personal boundaries

If you live alone, the chances of someone interrupting you during your workday are pretty slim. However, if you live with a partner or housemates, there's an issue you need to face head-on: you may all have different work situations right now. Some of you may be unemployed, furloughed, or simply taking a break. If you've held on to your job, though, you need to make sure that you can get your work done in peace and quiet.

Don't beat around the bush. Have a frank and firm conversation with your housemates or partner about what you need to be productive. For instance, if you work nine-to-five each day, let them know that you will be unavailable during those hours and that they may not see you. Once you've put this rule out there, you should find that the people you live with leave you alone to get on with your work.

Take regular breaks

Let's be honest. When you're in an office for seven or eight hours each day, you don't spend 100% of that time working. No, you have coffee breaks, take a moment to talk to your colleagues, and have a lunch break. When you're working from home, you should follow the same rules. That means taking regular breaks throughout the day, whenever you need to do so.

For example, giving yourself a 10-minute coffee break between meetings can do wonders for refreshing your brain. You should also make sure that you take a lunch break every day and sit away from your laptop for a while. It may sound like a small and simple change, but having that physical distance between your work life and your downtime can really help you to boost your productivity. 

Time your tasks and activities

Getting distracted when you're trying to get things done can be tough. You're sitting in your home with all your things around you. The laundry is calling your name. So is the vacuum cleaner. You're simply itching to get up and do something else. Still, you've got to keep your mindset on the task at hand, no matter what happens.

One solution to this problem is to time each of your activities. You can use a free app, such as Toggl, to keep track of how long tasks take you. All you have to do is name a task, press the timer and get started. Whenever you want to take a break, stop the timer. You'll be on the clock, so this process means that you're less likely to allow your mind to wander when you should be working.

Working from home: the takeaway

Staying productive when you're working from home is far from easy. However, with a little planning and effort, you can keep yourself on track. Use these tips to help you get started and see how things go. Working from home certainly takes some adjustment, but as long as you make a real effort, you'll get used to it soon enough.

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